Released: 23rd March
Seen: 25th March
It’s a little stunning to think that it was only ten years ago we were first introduced to John Wick, a hitman who merely wanted to live out his life in peace with his car and his dog who ended up being attacked and having his car stolen and dog killed. Thus began the legend of John Wick which has carried through three of the best action films of the last 20 years. Each entry in the John Wick franchise feels like it’s been dared to one up the film that went before it and so far, every single time it’s pulled that off with some of the most elaborate and intense action sequences to be put on film. Well now we’re here at Chapter 4 and it must be said, they certainly TRY to one-up themselves from the last time.
The story of John Wick: Chapter Four is pretty basic (in general most of these films are), this time John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is going up against the higher-ups of the underground organization he’s a part of. These higher ups are known as The High Table and John wants to get them to release him so he can go back to a quiet life. This plan has the snag of the Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgard) who really wants John dead, so he ups the bounty on him and enlists legendary blind assassin Caine (Donnie Yen) to get the job done. With that basic setup, John Wick runs around the world and runs into a large number of assassins who are seemingly everywhere and shoots a lot of them in the face.
By this point we know what we’re in a John Wick movie for, a combination of creative world building and grandiose public action sequences that push the limits of the stunt team’s abilities to their limit and John Wick: Chapter Four absolutely delivers on that. Once again, we’re shown more elements of this underground world, expanding it more and more to the point where literally anyone anywhere could be part of this underground group of hired assassins. It’s fun seeing the other countries versions of the Continental, the main one this time being the Osaka Continental that’s run by Shimazu Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada), and seeing how they handle the issues that seem to be following John Wick around the world.
Of course, what John Wick as a franchise does better than almost any other franchise is the action set pieces and this time, they’ve certainly gotten a few fantastic ones. The action goes from an overhead shot of a gunfight that looks like it’s lifted straight out of Hotline Miami to a battle in Paris that has people fighting with guns, fists and random passing cars and even a seemingly simple trip up a flight of stairs that turns into an elaborate obstacle course of death. John Wick: Chapter Four throws out some truly spectacular sequences that will have the adrenaline pumping from start to finish. Once again John Wick delivers what you want the franchise to deliver, but it’s hard not to feel like it’s been done better before.
While it’s almost a given that John Wick should be able to handle pretty much anything thrown at him, this movie basically makes him into some sort of cartoon character who can be thrown off tall buildings and shot a thousand times and react like it’s nothing. It doesn’t feel like a man who is just better than everyone he’s coming up against, it feels like an invincible wall just brute forcing his way through a crowd of almost invincible people (seriously, you will see John Wick shoot people in the face and they will get up like it’s nothing because he didn’t hit them in the exact right spot) and while it’s undeniably impressive and enjoyable to watch, there’s never really that feeling that this might be a little too much for John.
It’s also hard to deny that this time the story just isn’t quite as captivating as the previous films. Each of the previous films have had some strong stories that back up the action but this film just feels like it’s repeating the same story that we had in Chapter 3 except with a much less shocking ending. Now, that’s not saying it’s bad, at this point I don’t think it’s possible for a John Wick film to actually be anything less than absolutely fantastic and a ton of fun but this is the first of the franchise where it feels like they’re starting to repeat some of their tricks. This isn’t helped by the insane runtime (no way in hell did this film need to be nearly 3 hours long… no way) which makes some of the sequences linger a little longer than they probably should.
To be about as clear as could be, John Wick Chapter Four is absolutely a ton of fun with some great action scenes (seriously, the stunt team here are doing some next-level stuff) and a fine bunch of performances by the entire cast. Donnie Yen in particular is an absolute scene-stealer and it’s hard not to enjoy what everyone is doing. This is an absolutely fantastic movie on every level, it just feels like it’s a little less fantastic than the three that came before it. If the other three movies in this franchise are 10’s, Chapter Four would be a 9 and god damn I wish more franchises were so good that the weakest entry is still this good.